Monday, January 22, 2007

top50 - #25 to #21

21. agalloch - 'ashes against the grain'
One of the most important and unclassifiable bands in the United States right now, Agalloch continue to define their own sound while striding confidently into the pantheon of the great unclassifiables of every genre, like Neurosis or Mogwai or even Godspeed You Black Emperor!. What makes every Agalloch release increasingly essential is not a specific, look-this-is-it factor. it is the sheer scale that their intricate compositions hold within themselves. Steer well clear if you want immediate music - 'Ashes Against The Grain' will start to click around the 15 or so listens, but when it does, each and every song will feel like an entire universe where you can explore and discover new details every day.

22. ljå - 'til avsky for livet'
It is unusual, at least in my lists, for an album that has a very low level of originality to be placed this high. 'Til Avsky For Livet' doesn't have many things that haven't been done before similarly, at least superficially, but it is so well written and performed that the sheer amount of quality has turned it into one of the most powerful albums of the year in the black metal front. Cold, raw and utterly grim, it injects, a bit like countrymen Taake, almost subconscious melodies that you find yourself humming after the shrieking carnage is over. Equal parts Gorgoroth, for the intensity and underlying menace, and (old) Ulver, for unpredictability and variation, Ljå position themselves as a band to follow with very close attention in the future. Oh, and don't be fooled by those acoustic guitars on the last song. A quiet outro it most definitely turns out not to be...

23. johnny cash - 'american v: a hundred highways'
The final farewell from one of the most iconic musical figures of the 20th century. 'American V' is constituted by the songs that the man in black recorded in the final days of his life, when music was almost all he had left to live for. The most stripped-down album of his career, it doesn't even have the rock covers that made Johnny famous for a whole new generation with his American Recordings albums. A few Cash songs, a few discreet covers, and that's it. Until its magic starts working on you. Maybe surprisingly, it's not a dark or angry record, and it's not even depressing. The age and the illness show, yes, and the voice falters every now and then, but that only makes the contrast to the more booming moments more intense. The album is, more than anything, a window into the soul of a man accepting his mortality, the end of his path, with dignity and class.

24. she said destroy - 'time like vines'
An extremely mouth-watering debut from these Norwegians - 'Time Like Vines' sways, swings and bashes its way through nine of the most agile, versatile and explosive modern metal you can expect to hear. Take a song like 'Shapeshifter', which does just that, shapeshifting through slow-burning brooding and speeding passages of incredible intensity. The drum patterns alone are twistingly complex enough for them to be object of study at a math class. This is a surprising album, veteran-sounding and consistent, that just keeps throwing curveballs at you, with its jazzed-up everything-metal, razor-sharp melodies and above all immense style. 'Armageddon, Anyone?' might be the coolest song title of the year.

25. borknagar - 'origin'
Borknagar aren't exactly the most conformist or predictable of bands, but on their last few releases they had settled for a kind of symphonic black metal style of very high quality, not to mention very suitable for the characteristics of the musicians in the band. Well, 'Origin' is nothing like that. In a way, it represents a sort of respite for this band, and a turning point that will surely open many creative doors in the future. Entirely acoustic, with extra instrumentation in the form of cello and violin among others, it delves into the roots of folk music, with added touches of 70s symphonic prog rock. Think Opeth's 'Damnation' set in the middle of a norwegian forest. Written and played with a disarming simplicity, these songs are sensitive, beautiful and also extremely powerful. And if you still think black metal has no melody, check out the remake of 'Oceans Rise' off their second album. A serene, quiet masterpiece.


  1. Ooooh the diversity here. I love it. I'm enjoying the thoughtful comments as well. Very well done!

  2. Thank you!

    And I'm glad someone calls it diverse and not schizo! :)

  3. Diverse indeed. I'm seeing the majority of the promos that hit my desk. Are you a music journalist yourself? That Agalloch album is tops! Another year-end finisher.